Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Unevolved Ethics of the Torah I

With all the discussion recently about atheism and morality, I think it may be worth taking a look at just how anomalous, in the virtuous sense of the word, the moral code of the Torah was, in its time, and in certain ways, still is.

Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, wrote a book, Defending the Human Spirit, in which he fleshes out, in great detail, what he calls "The Vulnerability Principle". Meaning, that one of the macro-concerns of the Torah is that those who are subject to being victimized by abuse of power be protected by the law.

In one of the sections of the book, he focuses on the oppression of women, and how the Torah protects them from it.


"Sexuality is one area in which women have faced particular threats from men in general, and their husbands in particular. Dr. Diana Russell, a leading researcher in this field, found that marital rape is common. In fact, according to Russell, 'wife rape is clearly one of the most prevalent types of rape, and by some measures it is the most prevalent form.'

The law of rape in marriage is a strange phenomenon. Even during the very last decade of the twentieth century, many Western legal systems still held that a man was legally entitled to rape his wife. On the other hand, the millenia-old Jewish legal system, regarded by some as primitive and patriarchal, always held that rape in marriage was illegal and immoral.

...An astonishing picture of consistent and protracted legal approval of the marital rape exemption will emerge from the analysis of these [Western] systems... the contrasting position of Jewish law... the remarkable phenomenon of Jewish law's more enlightened approach with reference to the vulnerability principle."
To wit:
"For hundreds of years in England, a man was legally entitled to rape his wife. This position persisted until October 23, 1991, when the House of Lords declared rape in marriage to be a crime."
"The position in the United States of America, another member of the common-law family, is similar. Despite vast differences between the fifty states in terms of culture, law, human rights, climate, population, urbanization, history etc., until the late 1970s they all shared this in common: a man was legally entitled to rape his wife.
In 1977, the New York University Law Review summed up the marital rape exemption in American law as follows:
The bar to prosecuting a husband for raping his wife is almost as deeply rooted in our criminal law as the requirement that guilt be proved beyond reasonable doubt... He is immune from a rape charge in most states, however violent the force he uses and however long he and his wife have been living apart..; For instance, a wife whose husband comes home drunk every night and violently forces sex on her, causing her physical and mental suffering, is not protected by the rape laws of forty-six states."
Rabbi Goldstein sums up:
"The marital rape exemption survived not because it was forgotten and buried under piles of antiquated law. Seemingly rational, civilized and enlightened judges and lawmakers sat down in the 1990s, considered the exemption and decided to keep it."
"Cohen vs. State of Israel
The Cohen case highlights the perplexing phenomenon of the marital rape exemption, and its tenacity in surviving in Western legal systems until recently - contrasted with Jewish law's enlightened position on rape in marriage.
In 1980, the Israeli Supreme Court encountered this strange legal phenomenon. In Cohen v. State of Israel, the defendant, Cohen, had violently attacked his wife and forced her to have sexual intercourse with him against her will.
... The court was faced with a dilemma. Judge David Bechor, who authored the main judgement in the court, noted the position of English law at the time, which supported a marital rape exemption. English law carries alot of weight, because both English and Turkish law systems were operational in the area before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Yet Jewish law has always condemned rape in marriage. Jewish law is also influential because it molds Israeli private law as it pertains to Jewish citizens.
Judge Bechor stated that he was "delighted" not to have to follow English law on this issue... Judge Bechor concluded: 'The people of Israel can take pride in their progressive and liberal approach of their blessed heritage and the position of Jewish law on this matter from time immemorial'."
Now, I think we would not be remiss in presenting the following question: From what wellspring of progression did this attitude of the Torah bubble forth? Clearly, built in to the laws of Nezikin, Onaas Devarim, and the like, is no exemption of such when relating to one's wife. (Actually, regarding Onaas Devarim, the Gemara cautions about a wife in particular). This has been the Torah's stance since it's advent at Har Sinai, and is codified in the Gemara and in the Shulchan Aruch.
Did a particularly sensitive human being, about 3300 years ahead of his time, write this? Was the Torah written by a progressive woman's rights advocate, while granting limited governmental and historical role to women? [Bear in mind, this is not the only law that is being suggested. This is not a one-dimensional agenda of the Torah, in complete opposition to prevailing moral sentiments. This is a complete personal and national moral code]
I want to emphasize that this same Torah advocates Lo Techaye Kol Neshama and LaNochri Tashich. I am not saying that we need be apologetic for the moral code that the Torah espouses. It was given by the Source of Morality.
What I am suggesting is that this law (like many others, stay tuned) is so refined, in direct opposition to prevailing sentiment of the role of the woman in marriage vis-a-vis marital intimacy, both of ancient times, and of the very recent past, as to suggest an inclination of evidence toward an Author who was not mortal man.
"Ki Hi Chochmaschem U'Binaschem L'Einei HaAmim, Asher Yishme'u Eis Kol HaChukim HaEile, V'Amru Rak Am Chacham V'Navon HaGoy HaGadol HaZeh."


Jak Black's Gandhi Plan

The Border Police are gearing up for the Jerusalem gay parade, slated to take place next week. According to the media,

Police decided to expand the initial number of forces intended for the parade after receiving intelligence information regarding plans by ultra-Orthodox and extreme rightists to hold violent protests and attack parade participants.

Now, one can really trust neither the media in Israel nor the police, so it’s hard to know the precise nature of these “threats” against the parade, or even if they exist. But judging from comments I’ve heard personally on the Chareidi street, I’d be willing to assume that such threats exist. After all, this parade has nothing to do with homosexuality or “pride.” The last such parade was held in Rome, and the current one is being held in Jerusalem – if the parade in the past held a fig leaf of activism, that leaf is now rakishly askew. This parade is nothing but a blatant provocation against the religions of the world (next year in Mecca? somehow, I doubt it.) If Judaism is purposely being taunted in its most holy city, I cannot blame some for the desire to take action.

Nevertheless, I feel strongly that violence is the wrong way to go, questions of morality aside. In a word, violence plays directly into the hands of the protesters. Violence is precisely what they want. Cameras will zero in to signs demanding the death-penalty for homosexuals, violent scuffles with police will ensue, and the inevitable grotesquely fat Chassid, flecks of kugel in his beard, red in the face, screaming in broken English that these people are going to rot in hell will loop endlessly on the evening news. The participants, of course, will be portrayed as peace-loving citizens of the world – happy, well-adjusted, and “fabulous.”

Overall, a gigantic chillul Hashem.

That’s why I feel that the best move of the religious world (and here I go beyond the Chareidi world, because there are hundreds of thousands of deeply religious people in Israel who feel this is an injustice) would be to adopt Jak Black’s Gandhi Plan.

For those who have been hiding in a cave (or never saw the movie starring Ben Kingsley) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) was

a major political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of Satyagraha — resistance through mass civil disobedience strongly founded upon non-violence, becoming one of the strongest philosophies of freedom struggles worldwide.

Without going into the history of India, the cricical point is this – one of the most effective ways to fight against a stronger power in this modern world is not direct confrontation, but rather non-violent disobedience. If the State sends its might to attack the protesters or attempt to remove them by force, world opinion shifts quickly and heavily in favor of the protesters. And in this modern world, mass-opinion is everything. Opinion is why the Gay Parade begins with such an assumption of favor – they just want to march nicely to the Wailing Wall, no?

Imagine what would happen if dawn broke on the morning of the parade to a different scene than the police or the marchers expected. There are no violent protests. There are no placards demanding “death to the sickos!” Instead, there are two-hundred-thousand religious Jews of all stripes, sitting peacefully along the direct route of the parade, and barring entrance to the Old-City. Nothing will move them, even the inevitable blasts of police water-cannons. A few calm, rational spokesmen speak to the reporters, patiently explaining why the religious community feels this is a direct provocation. The day wears on, but the protesters refuge to budge. Just as the marchers have the “right” to march in Jerusalem, the protesters have the right to silently proclaim the ideology of their religion. The parade is forced to march elsewhere.

Overall, a gigantic kiddush Hashem.

(though unlikely to happen)


Friday, October 27, 2006

Did He Just Say That?

I've heard myself, and heard stories about, some butchering of Tefilla by less-than-perfect Chazzanim.

The top three I've heard (directly, or about) are:

a) "Mashiv HaRuach UMorid HaNashim" [Wow! (edited as per Bob's comment) Talk about male chauvinism!]

b) "Ozreinu Elokei Yisheinu Al D'var K'vod Sh'mecha, V'Chatzileinu, V'Chaper Al Nafshoseinu." [ Burnt eggplant parmesan doesn't taste all that good, you're right]

c) [From "Hineni He'Ani MiMa'as" ] "V'Sig'ar B'Satan L'Val Yashtineini" [Yuch!]


Thursday, October 26, 2006

The 9/11 scenario in Halachah

I put up a post on my blog regarding the permissibility of shooting down a plane headed for a building. It may take a bit of time to read it, but I hope it will prove to be worth your time.



Wednesday, October 25, 2006


There's a fellow commenting on another blog who goes by the pseudonym "JakBlackFan". (I'm pretty sure he's commented here too).

I love Jak Black like a brother, and I hope his following grows in spades.

I think it would be appropriate at this time to introduce the chant of those who wish to join the ranks of the Jak Black fan club.

On the blogs he's unique
He's the one who's a clan
He's got nothin' to tweak
On his grace and elan

He don't turn the other cheek
He hits back like a man
Yeah, I'm the JakBlackFreak

Post six times a week
Or I'm sick as my Gran
I swear at Mishmar I'll peek
If I'm home or in Milan

If it's politics I seek
Or a take on the ban
Yeah, I'm the JakBlackGeek


The Rights of a Criminal

Despite protest from some quarters, Yigal Amir was recently granted the right to have conjugal visits during his incarceration (can you say “tacky headline?”). And although nothing about this mess pleases me, I think it's the right thing to do.

Yigal Amir, convicted assassin of prime minster Yitzhak Rabin and his wife Larissa Trimbobler spent eight hours together in the private room at Ayalon prison for conjugal meetings. The two met yesterday morning after the Shin Bet security service removed its objection to the visit based on concerns that Amir would take advantage of the situation to transmit messages to extremist elements outside the prison.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. The idea of conjugal visits utterly sickens me. These are criminals we’re talking about. They committed crimes against humanity and the State, and they are serving time in prison as a punishment. They do not deserve many of the privileges they receive. They should not be granted conjugal rights. They should not have internet access (unless they can only access my pompous and longwinded posts – punishment enough :) ) Certainly they should not be allowed loose for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and weekend furloughs.

It is true that criminals are still human. They deserve to be treated with dignity, despite their incarceration. They should not be punished in a cruel or unusual manner. But when I think of the terms “cruel and unusual,” I imagine that the one who wrote the law had the rack and the thumbscrew in mind rather than a deprivation of Frisbees (as one criminal sued for.)

So the truth is, I don’t believe than any criminal should be granted conjugal rights. Part of the fundamental punishment of prison is just that – being removed from the circle of friends and family. But if we’re going to give that right to any prisoner not deemed a security risk, then Yigal Amir deserves the right too. It is true that he committed a terrible crime. He is a murderer. If Israel had a death penalty, he probably would have gotten it. But because he didn’t, he is serving his time, paying his debt to society. He does not deserve any worse treatment than any other murderer serving his time, regardless of who he murdered.

What is truly shocking is the demand from the left that he be treated different. I wonder – had Amir murdered a Right-wing Prime Minister, do you think they would still make the same point? Somehow, I doubt it. If we're going to be liberal, let's at least be consistent.


Rav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l on Tefilla L'Shlom HaMedinah

This is a translation of a letter by Rav Shaul Yisraeli zt"l regarding whether to recite the Tefilla L’Shlom HaMedinah, during the tenure of the Rabin government:

"We do not coronate a king initially except to execute justice and to wage wars, as its says, ‘And our king will judge us and wage our wars.’" (Rambam end of Chapter IV, Hilchos Melachim). And from the positive one understands the negative.
A messenger who does not perform his mission, we tell him, "I sent you to accomplish good, not to distort" (Kiddushin 42b)
Those who make a treaty with an arch-murderer - for whom one hundred deaths will not suffice, who open before him the gates of the countries, who honor him with the honor of kings, and through that they proclaim aloud that he is correct in his escapades and the Nation of Israel are evil. Who bring him with their own hands to the Land of our forefathers’ heritage, and scheme to lock up in ghettos, surrounded by enemies, those Jewish settlements which were established with the sweat of their brow with great faithfulness.
Those who incite one segment of the nation against the other, who recruit hundreds of soldiers and policemen to beat, in fury, women and children who express their protest by camping in tents, bereft of any comfortable conditions, opposite the dwellings of their government.
Those who spread falsehoods, who lie with a brazen forehead, who toil to hide the truth, who spit before tens of thousands of Jews who come to demonstrate their opposition to the dangerous path down which they lead the nation to surrender and humiliation, because nothing "moves" them. [A Hebrew equivalent to "they don’t give a hoot"]
Are these worthy of blessing? Is it permitted to bless these people?
Is it not a Chillul Hashem, that on that same Shabbat Kodesh, which was designated by them, by taking advantage of the observance of the sanctity of the day by those who are faithful (to Hashem), so that it will be easier for them to greet with honor that murderer-victor on Jewish soil, they will stand near the Sefer Torah, and bless aloud these ministers-wayward ones, who are worthy of the opposite?
The Halachah states that if we see someone transgressing an Aveira we warn him and we tell him: ‘You should know that for this Aveira you are liable for what the Torah imposes. And if he does not desist, those who warned him must bring him to court... there is no demand when one sees the trangression of the Aveira to pray that he repents - "And Pinchas got up and judged (VaYefalel), it does not say VaYispalel but rather VaYefalel - a derivative of "B’Flilim" (with judges). If there is an inablility (that we can’t take them to court), and if there is a lack of initiative - "V’Heima Bochim" - "And they were crying". But we will certainly not say - "V’Heimah Mevarchim" - "And they are blessing..."
A bit of respect to Knesset Yisrael (note - in the traditional sense) and the Torah of Israel, and let us not be those who add Chillul Hashem to the Chillul Hashem that is being done before our eyes, and the heart bursts with no possibility of salvation, for it is about this that Chazal say: "When the shepherd is angry at the sheep, he blinds the leader"
Our prayer to the Dweller of High is that he quickly switches the fasts of the fourth and fifth month to joy and happiness.

End of letter.

This letter reminds me of the story about Winston Churchill (with the punch line also attributed to George Bernard Shaw): "Madame, we've already established what kind of person you are. Now we are just haggling over the price."

Once we accept that reciting a Tefilla L'Shlom HaMedinah for a government which is a Chilul Hashem is merely adding to the Chilul Hashem, we are merely haggling over what constitutes a government which is a Chilul Hashem.


Monday, October 23, 2006

How to Review a Book

In "And From Jerusalem His Word"(Pages 203-204), there is a quote from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Zt'l :

I prefer to concede on almost anything to avoid a machlokes. When I read any sort of criticism, I always look to see if the writer first praises the work and its author and then comments on or criticizes a specific aspect or detail. If he does, I know that the criticism is genuine and therefore permissible. But if the piece opens with criticism and attacks the author or his book, then it is sheer machlokes and thus forbidden. Only when a person knows the value and importance of his fellow man can he criticize him without descending into controversy.

Last week, when I referred to the above elsewhere on the internet, someone mentioned that this was said in reference to Rav Avroham Yitzchak Kook Zt'l. However, while Rav Shlomo Zalman was extremely careful about Rav Kook's honor, as is well known, the above quote was a general one and does not appear to be related to this topic.

I think that the above-mentioned thoughts of Rav Shlomo Zalman on criticizing was related to being dan lechaf zecus(judging favorably), which involves seeing and evaluating the entire person or situation:

From the Other Side of the Story, as quoted here:

...A virtuous man was walking with his students and they chanced upon the dead carcass of an animal. The students said, "What a foul odor is coming from this carcass!" the virtuous man said, "How white are its teeth!" (Chovos HaLevavos, Shaar Hacniya, chap 6)

Which was true? Which was more obvious?

Both observations were true. Even though the white teeth were much less obvious and easy to overlook in the face of the offensive, overpowering odor of a dead carcass, the virtuous man found something nice to see and to say. He chose to concentrate on the positive. If this can be said concerning a dead animal, how much more so should we try to find the good in a human being.


The Ends of Conservative Politics?

I’ve been thinking about an interesting question lately, and I wondered if anyone had any input.

Frank Meyer, an early editor and columnist at the National Review, is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of the modern conservative movement. He was most famous perhaps for his attempts to forge a synthesis between the libertarian and social conservative strands of the movement, popularly known as “fusionism,” though Meyer disliked the term himself.

Seemingly, the two threads of thought are irreconcilable. Libertarianism (sometimes known as “classical liberalism”) places primacy on the individual, and individual freedom. According to libertarians, the force most likely to restrain the freedom of a people is government. Therefore, all forms of government should be minimized to the extent possible. Man himself, once completely free, will have the free will to live as he wishes, and will have the ability to live a just and orderly life.

Conservatives buy little of the libertarian argument, often scornfully referring to libertarians as “intellectual anarchists.” Although conservatives believe in limiting the government, they also realize that the government does play an important role in society, primarily that of keeping order and executing justice. Conservatives believe that if libertarians would have their way, the world would fall into anarchy, not order. Instead, they placed primacy on order and especially community.

The development of the conservative movement was marred by frequent, and occasionally vicious, squabbling between these two factions. But Frank Meyer claimed that in truth, there was no inherent argument. He believed that both factions were incorrectly stressing only one half of the true conservative equation. He claimed that libertarians, on the one hand, often placed the focus on liberty and freedom alone, forgetting that the end of society is not freedom but virtue. And a free capitalist economic order cannot inculcate virtue. Rather, they must learn to draw from the well of transcendent and absolute order of truth.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Meyer claimed that social conservatives were misguided too. For while they accepted “the objective existence of values based upon the unchanging constitution of being,” they denied what must follow – that “acceptance of the moral authority derived from transcendent criteria of truth and good must be voluntary if it is to have meaning; if it is coerced by human force, it is meaningless.” Meaning, in order for man to be truly virtuous, he must have the ability to choose virtue. And if a state attempts to coerce virtue, man will lose his freewill, and once freewill is gone, he cannot be considered truly virtuous. So at the political level, freedom must be the primary end.

It’s an interesting idea, but it seems flawed, and Brent Bozell, brother-in-law to the founder of National Review, William F. Buckley, pointed this out in a lengthy article titled “Freedom or Virtue?” He claimed that the first and primary goal of mankind is virtue, not freedom. Therefore, insisted Bozell, the primary purpose of politics must be to aid this quest for virtue, even by means of the state. What about Meyer’s point that if the state attempts to coerce virtue, man will not really be allowed to exercise his freewill? Bozell answered that freewill was inherent in man – especially in his inner impulses and desires, and it was these that truly determined what kind of an act was being preformed. A man in chains, forced to sin, would not be condemned by G-d, but virtuous acts, commanded by the state, produced order and stability, and promoted a godly civilization. “Freewill would exist no matter what policies the state adopted, so why not pass laws that would prudently regulate man’s action, to prevent sin and lawlessness from taking over the world?” Did not society already do this in the form of certain laws?

Now, on the surface, Bozell has an exceedingly strong point. This is basically the vision the Torah lays out for a just Jewish state. One can hardly claim that man’s freewill has been taken away, despite the mandates of a moral state. But Meyer replied in a subsequent article, and although many of his points seem weak, he does have one very strong one, the core of my quandary. Meyer explained that allowing the state to promote virtue could only lead to disaster. Power corrupts, and “if the state is endowed with the power to enforce virtue, the men who hold that power will enforce their own concepts as virtuous. The denial of this basic freedom leads not conservatism but to authoritarianism and theocracy.”

Meyer has a good point. The gentiles have no urrim v’tummim to objectively decide what is considered moral. Just look at what the present oligarchy considers “moral” – inverse-racism, multiculturalism, feminism and all matter of other corruption. If the state can coerce virtue, who is to say what they will mandate in the future?

Is Meyer or Bozell correct? Should a conservative state seek to mandate virtue? This is no idle question, as many laws already do just this – for example, taxes that are “pro-family.” I have some thoughts, but I’m curious to know what everyone thinks. Keep in mind that we’re not discussing a Jewish state; the gentiles are not necessarily obligated to even pattern their state after the Torah (though they are obligated to keep law and order.)


Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Chazon Ish and the Brisker Rav on Kerem B'Yavneh

When the late founding Rosh Yeshiva of Kerem B'Yavneh, R' Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht zt"l, was approached by a number of alumni of Yeshivot B'nei Akiva to head (what would soon become) the first of the Yeshivot Hesder, he asked his closest Rabbeim, the Chazon Ish zt"l and the Brisker Rav zt"l, whether he should accept. The hesitation was due to the general opposition to the Mizrachi by both of these Gedolei HaDor.

The Chazon Ish told Rav Goldvicht, "What they want to do with the Yeshiva, I do not know. But if they want Torah, one must give it to them."

The Brisker Rav said, "What does R' Avraham Yeshaya (the Chazon Ish) care if they do not have Torah?"

Rav Goldvicht followed the counsel of the Chazon Ish, and headed the Yeshiva established at the beginning of Choref Z'man, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, 5714. (53 years ago today). I have read that the Chazon Ish told Rav Goldvicht to report back after two weeks of a trial period.

On the 15th of Cheshvan 5714, the Chazon Ish was Niftar.
And Rav Goldvicht, his support now gone, along with his incredibly close Kesher with the Brisker Rav, suffered his first, near-fatal, heart attack, while still in his twenties.
The Chazon Ish was of the opinion that Torah must be taught to those who seek it in truth, while the Brisker Rav, the way I understand it, held that the tradition of the Torah and of the Yeshivos, Torah K'Tzurasah, which, in the words of Rav Aharon Kotler, was in the hands of the Brisker Rav from Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, back to R' Chaim Volozhiner, to the GRA, all the way to Har Sinai, must be accessed from within, not by the creation of a separate "Mizrachi flavor" Yeshiva, by the Yishuv HaChadash.
Who was right?


Saturday, October 21, 2006

To Relinquish Freedom

I saw an interesting, if a bit unsettling, news item yesterday. Apparently, an elementary school south of Boston has joined a growing list of schools that has banned the games “tag” and touch-football from its schoolyard. Officials claim that the school fears kids will be hurt and hold the school liable.

Recess is "a time when accidents can happen," said Willett Elementary School Principal Gaylene Heppe, who approved the ban. While there is no districtwide ban on contact sports during recess, local rules have been cropping up. Several school administrators around Attleboro, a city of about 45,000 residents, took aim at dodgeball a few years ago, saying it was exclusionary and dangerous.
Elementary schools in Cheyenne, Wyo., and Spokane, Wash., also recently banned tag during recess. A suburban Charleston, S.C., school outlawed all unsupervised contact sports.

Of course, some will claim that the primary issue is the need for tort reform. If a person can sue an institution for injury during an innocuous child’s game, and in all likelihood walk away with a reward of hundreds of thousands of dollars, then something is clearly broken. And no doubt there’s some truth to this - as the conservative truism runs, subsidize any behavior and you’ll get more of it, tax any behavior and you’ll get less. The great potential rewards for even frivolous litigation are a very strong incentive, and society is simply (over)reacting to protect itself.

But I think there’s much more to it than that. Take a look at this priceless quote from one of the parents at the school:

Another Willett parent, Celeste D'Elia, said her son feels safer because of the rule. "I've witnessed enough near collisions," she said.

Two of the most famous dystopian works of literature in recent history are Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, published in 1948, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, published in 1932. Both saw a depressing vision of a future with stifled thought and creativity – a world where humanity has completely lost its most basic freedoms. Both were written as cautionary tales against totalitarianism and communism (which tends to lead to totalitarianism.) However, there is a key difference between the two works.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell assumes that the only mechanism capable of depriving a society of freedom is force. In Winston Smith’s totalitarian world, members of the “Party” are monitored carefully and constantly through an elaborate system of cameras and spies for any sign of “criminal behavior.” The Thought Police punishes any infraction swiftly and brutally. As everyone knows, the tale does not end happily – Smith is ultimately caught and tortured, and his desire for a personal humanity crushed.

Huxley, on the other hand, saw a radically different future – therapeutic totalitarianism, if you will. In the Brave New World, there is no need for a thought police or prying cameras. The population itself has been engineered to forgo its freedoms for the sake of an infantile, simplistic existence. They are conformist and happy, the ultimate consumers – indoctrinated into an existence of production and consumption. They are promiscuous from a young age, and are taught to never be alone (something that might lead to thought.) When not at work, they watch “feelies” (thoughtless movies) and play childish games akin to miniature golf. Humans are raised in test tubes and never know or experience anything that might cause feeling or emotion, such as family relationships. And any feelings that do arise are quickly self-quashed with a narcotic drug “soma.” In one scene, the main character almost causes a riot, yet when the police arrive they do subdue the population with drugs and hypnotic music rather than brute force.

In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, critic Neil Postman writes,

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism...Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisisted, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

What Huxley saw clearly is that the greatest threat to liberty and freedom is not necessarily an external force. There comes a time in the lifespan of a materialistic society that the people are willing to trade their basic freedoms for an infantile existence of thoughtless getting and spending.

Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. Children are given relatively little freedom because if they are allowed complete freedom, they would exercise it in an irresponsible manner. Only a truly responsible and moral person can exercise and guard real freedom. And it is clear that a person (or a society) cannot handle freedoms unless his innate character is really fit to handle them. For liberty does not arise by of chance, the gift a benevolent government, but is an outgrowth of a free and moral character. The writer Kenneth Minogue tells us that if we are seeking the conditions of freedom,

“we must look not to those circumstances which happen to accompany it, but to the manner in which it has been attained. And we will find that it has always been attained because of a spontaneous growth of interest in truth, science, or inventiveness; a spontaneous growth of moral principles appropriate to freedom; a spontaneous construction of the political arrangements which permit of free constitutional government. Spontaneity indicates that free behavior has arisen directly out of the character of the people concerned.”

If a people has a character that is conducive to liberty, they will attain freedom. But if they lose that character, they will end up losing their freedom. And liberty is hard work. It must be guarded with strength of will, and sometimes arms. The Constitution did not make the American people free. The pioneers lived in America for almost two hundred years before the Constitution was written. The Constitution was a political expression of the innate character of a free and willful people.

If we view freedom in this manner, it is pretty clear that American society is rapidly degenerating into servitude. The character of freedom and individuality that typified the earlier builders of the nation has all but disappeared. As long as I have a self-parking Lexus, a summer home in Aruba and a preordered PS3, I’ll leave the rest to others.

This is Huxley’s point. A society only concerned with spending and getting will eventually tire itself out. It will lose its well of fortitude and strength. And it will gladly acquiesce to a loss of freedom in return for an infantile existence of carefree materialism and decadence. This explains why the characters in Huxley’s book are named both after communist figures and capitalist ones, and sometimes strange combinations of the two. His point is that capitalism and communism are really two sides of the same coin – they both focus solely on production and consumption as a way of life. Many conservative writers made the same point on the fall of the Soviet Union: materialism had merely defeated materialism. There was, essentially, no great “ideological victory.”

Any careful observer of American society will see that there has been a rampant loss of freedom in recent decades. Virtually every aspect of life is carefully regulated – the examples are legion. This regulation of a simple child’s sport – one played throughout American history – is merely another sign of the cancerous degradation of American society. As Chilton Williamson puts it so well, “four decades after [Huxley’s] death, we can see the horror actually upon us in the form of the calculated proletarianization of the Western publics by a collaborative effort between big government, big business, and the entertainment industry to infantilize the populace in the interests of creating a docile and obedient citizenry, a captive, suggestible consumer market, and a passively receptive mass audience.”

Samuel Francis writes,

Today, virtually everyone in the United States is habituated to a style of living that is wrapped up in dependency on mass organizations of one kind or another – supermarkets, hospitals, insurance companies, the bureaucratized police, local government, the mass media, the factories and office buildings where we work, the apartment complexes and suburban communities where we live, and the massive, remote and mysterious national state that supervises almost every detail of our lives. Most Americans cannot even imagine life without such dependencies and would not want to live without them if they could imagine it. The classical republicans were right. Having become dependent on others for our livelihoods, our protection, our entertainment, and even our thoughts and tastes, we are corrupted. We neither want a republic nor could we keep it if we had one. We do not deserve to have one, and like the barbarians conquered and enslaved by the Greeks and Romans, we are suited only for servitude.

Today, Celeste D’Elia will gladly trade the freedom of her child for an infantile sense of safety. What will she trade tomorrow?


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Modern Orthodoxy and the Mesillas Yesharim

I have recently been wondering whether Modern/Centrist Orthodox folks get Chizuk for their approach to Yiddishkeit when they read through the Mesillas Yesharim. The way I see it, they do not even get up the first rung without encountering some serious problems with their attitudes.

I mean, let us take the Middah of Zehirus - the Middah of paying close attention to his actions and attitudes, and ascertaining whether they are in conformity with Halachah. The Mesillas Yesharim, in the fifth Perek, discusses three things which distance a person from this Middah and destroy his spiritual ascent. They are:

1) Being busy with the matters of Olam Hazeh
2) Fun-poking and mockery of Torah related issues
3) Social interaction with fools and sinners

Now, Charedi society, as a matter of course and ideology, does its utmost to distance itself from these Mafsidim, these destroyers, of the Middah of Zehirus. They exit the rat race of America, stage left, they abhor mockers of Torah, and socially interact with like-minded people. On the other hand, Modern and Centrist Orthodoxy, as a matter of course and ideology, embrace being a full participant in Western society and culture.

So, a youth who goes to a Modern Orthodox High School, where (the more serious) students get caught up in the pressures and demands of attending a good college, which is one of the precepts of Centrist/Modern Orthodoxy - that a student must be given the opportunity to attend the ivy leagues, runs a FAR higher risk of, during some of his most impressionable years, being completely unreceptive to a message of the primacy of spiritual pursuits. The tactic of Par'oh - Tichbad HaAvodah Al HaAnashim - described by the Mesillas Yesharim as a favorite stratagem of the Yetzer HaRa, is institutionalized and ingrained in the Talmid from the get-go.

Let the Modern Orthodox not fool themselves into thinking that the secular studies curriculum is geared toward an appreciation of Madda as a pursuit of enhacement of understanding of Torah or of Hashem's wisdom in Creation. Evolution is taught by Apikorsim, which is an out-and-out prohibition Min HaTorah. (Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that one must rip the pages out of a science book that deal with matters that deny Creation. I do not think that there is one Modern Orthodox school in America that would follow this imperative. In fact, ripping pages out of a book is quite the anathema to Modern Orthodoxy). The curriculum is guided by what is required for acceptance to college. Period.

Speakers who mock the Torah and her values are consistently invited into the homes of the Modern Orthodox. Not in the flesh, but through the thoroughly corrupt medium of television.

As a small example, the mainstream media is full of a constant drip-dripping of the idea that one of the greatest evils of politics is to have policies guided by one's religious beliefs. This is one of the most pervasive sources of criticism, and ridicule, of President Bush. Yet, this attitude is utterly abhorrent to the Torah Jew, who is absolutely enjoined to have his policies, yes, on a national level as well, be influenced and driven by the values of the Torah.

Naturally, the fare on the entertainment oriented shows on television are hardly conducive to building a sanctuary, a Makom Torah, out of one's home.

Now, certainly, not everyone who self-identifies as Modern Orthodox has a television. But it is completely acceptable in Modern and Centrist Orthodoxy to own and watch television.

Worse, let us take a look at one of the prominent bastions of Modern Orthodoxy in America, the Young Israel shuls. Here (follow the link) is a description of the emotions which recently suffused the congregants in one of the most prominent Shuls on the West Coast.

An excerpt (the bold is my own):

While many synagogues around the country offer adult education programs and brochures, Young Israel of Century City is one of the few to package it in a humorous, stylized brochure. Last year the brochure was designed as a National Geographic magazine. Past themes have included the National Enquirer, a museum tour, and "soul food," featuring a diner design.

"We felt that if you package your program in a sophisticated fashion people will pay attention," said Rabbi Elazar Muskin, who instituted the catchy brochures in the first years of his arrival, some 22 years ago. Not only do congregants anticipate the unveiling of the brochure (at Kol Nidre), (!!!) but Muskin gets requests nationwide from other rabbis who are inspired by his design and by his programming.

My dear readers, this is the epitome of the S'chok V'Latzon which the Mesillas Yesharim is talking about. Congregants walk into Shul on the most somber night of the year, ready to beg for their lives, to be inspired, to awaken from their spiritual slumber, and what is front and center on their minds? What is the design of the program this year! Ooh, the NATIONAL ENQUIRER. "Brad caught cheating on Jen?"

And this abomination (there is no other word that can adequately express my disgust at this), garners calls from other Rabbis nationwide who are "inspired" by his design!

One can read 100 Machzorim of the Rav, and have his Yom Kippur, and his year, and his Din, destroyed by this debasing of the Torah.

The social interaction with sinners and fools is one of the great banes of (the primarily modern) Orthodox blogs. All ideas are given voice - with the most biting sarcasm or most acerbic wit earning the heartiest applause of the bloggers. The great Kavod which is given to people like Gadol Hador, who is a Meisis in every sense of the word, for his ability to mock and poke fun (there is no question that if not for his ability as a writer to put-down and belittle, his "quest for truth" would be paid very little attention), is probably a violation of the Mitzvah to hate an inciter.

Torah policies are NOT the domain of any two-bit guy with a keyboard. They are the responsibility of the great experts of Torah of the generation, and belittling those who are thoroughly steeped in decades upon decades of uninterrupted mastery of Torah and granted Siyata D'Shmaya in their decisions is sheer folly.

Too many Modern Orthodox people have to endure their share of mockers, who are ready to criticize any attempt at achieving higher levels of spirituality which are taken as a withdrawal from society. The social pressure to NOT excel is pervasive. You took the TV out of your house!? What kind of a frummock are you? You stopped going to movies? For shame! You won't even take the kids to "Finding Nemo"!? (Which is a movie with a horrible message, but that is for another post).

Before you know it you'll be taking a shower with your black hat on!

They claim to be adherents of the Rambam's approach of the Sh'vil HaZahav. But they forget that the very same Rambam says that if the environment is one which is antagonistic toward Torah must run to the deserts, since it is the nature of man to be drawn after the environment. Yes, he should CUT HIMSELF OFF from that society. Anyone who fails to see that the entertainment industry is full of values antithetical to Torah has certainly not read a Mussar Sefer in the recent past.

If the Modern/Centrist Orthodox world is going to advocate walking that fine a line of full participation in Western culture, while avoiding their social milieu and their mockery, you would expect that there would be a long list of Mussar Sefarim and prominent Mashgichim and Baalei Mussar warning incessantly of the very real dangers that lurk in these interactions! Yet, not only is this list non-existent, but, for the most part, what you hear is that the risk of losing one's Emunah, or cooling it off, is worth the benefit of this interaction, or the risks are pooh-poohed as the figment of the imagination of some fanatic band of paranoid freakazoids with long beards.

Modern/Centrist Orthodoxy clearly doth not begin to tread the Path of the Just.




Tuesday, October 17, 2006

EVEN EVERY HIDDEN THING -- On Chickens, Scandals and Mussar Haskels

כִּי, אֶת-כָּל-מַעֲשֶׂה, הָאֱלֹהִים יָבִא בְמִשְׁפָּט, עַל כָּל-נֶעְלָם, אִם-טוֹב, וְאִם-רָע
(קֹהֶלֶת 12:14)

For every action, the Lord will bring to Judgment, even every hidden thing, whether good or bad. (Eccl. 12:14)

So much has been written in the last few weeks about the Monsey Chicken Scandal (including a rather heated exchange I had with one of the ba’alim of another blog – but enough said about that) yet, amazingly, no one has written about one issue, which IMVVHO, is the biggest issue in the whole story – and has caused the most Chillul Hashem.

The story is real simple. An outwardly pious and learned Jew, a well–respected part of a community which itself is respected for its high level of learning and piety. The man is considered a cut above the rest – gives shiurim, leins, not to mention tsedakah, etc.

The man turns out to have been selling treif chickens in his butcher store and to local caterers for some time, lying to them about its kashrus. Not cutting corners. Treif. As in Frank Perdue. We’re talking deoraysas here, honey.

When he is found out, a scandal erupts, and, we are told, the man has to divorce his wife and flee the country out of shame.

Much hand wringing follows. Some talk about upgrading standards of kashrus. Some pilpul about the laws of ne'emanus -- or whether timtum ha lev applies here. Some talk about emphasizing the importance of honesty in business – correctly pointing out that the breach here was as much a gross violation of Choshen Mishpat as of Yoreh Deah.

Anything sound out of whack here? Is the proverbial elephant in the room being ignored? Why?

Before I identify the elephant, think about this. Imagine if you had met this man several weeks before he was found out. You tell him a hypothetical story about a frum Jew on the other side of the world who seems frum, but in fact is selling treif meat to a whole frum community. What do you think he would have said? Of course, he would say, that man is a rasha merusha, a pious fraud, and will burn in Gehennom. I mean it’s plain and simple, everyone can understand it. What was done was wrong, wrong, wrong, no two ways about.

So, how could he do it?

“The students of R. Yochanan b. Zacai asked him: why was the Torah more
strict with a ganav than a gazlan? He said to them, this one treated
equally the honor of the servant to his Master, and this one did not treat
equally the honor of the servant to his Master. So to speak, he [the
ganav] made the lower eye as though it does not see and the lower eye as though
it does not hear [a euphemism for he acted as though God did not see or hear his
actions].” Bava Kama 79b.

It’s real simple: no one was looking. And what about the One Above? He, in that man’s mind, kevayakhol was not looking either. It’s that simple. That’s the problem in a nutshell.

To my mind, this is the real Chillul Hashem. Everyone understands that what was done was terribly, terribly wrong – heck, even someone with no knowledge of the Torah can understand that committing massive consumer fraud is wrong. The real question is how could someone so steeped in the minutiae of Torah – who said krias Sh’ma twice a day, who davened three times a day, who learned, kept mitsvos, etc., etc. – how could someone like that fall into the mental trap of the ganav, the psychological trap called, “No one – including No One -- Is Looking”? Someone who wants to be mekanter can easily say -- well you know what he can say, Chazal already said it.

In my mind, this is a part of chinuch that is sorely neglected – the feeling that everything you do is watched and recorded, and one day you will give an accounting as per the opening Ecclesiastical possuk.

The Mishna (Avos 2:1) quotes Rebbe as saying: “Look at three things and you will not come to sin, Know that which is above you, an Eye that sees, and Ear that hears, and all you deeds are written in the Book.”

The Chofetz Chaim is quoted as saying that the reason that the chochmah of making movies came down to the world is because people could not fully grasp the import of this Mishna. A movie helps us visualize that our actions and words can be recorded an played later – after 120 years we will watch our life’s “movie” and be judged accordingly.

Now, since the Chofetz Chaim, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. In his days, you had to head a movie studio to be able to film a movie. Today, for a few hundred dollars, every Chayim Yankel can own a video-recorder, on which he can record the most mundane parts of his and his family’s life. (“How cute! You taped your childrens’ twelfth trip to the local museum.”)

Perhaps the need perceived by the Chofetz Chaim is even greater in our generation. We need to think about that video recorder in the sky. One day, after 120 years, we are going to see a record made by the Video Recorder Above. Will we be proud or shamed by our performance?

Other than such mesholim, I don’t know how to inculcate this lesson. True, the issue is not new. R. Yochanan ben Zaccai, as he was about to depart this world, blessed his students, “May the fear of Heaven be upon you as the fear of flesh and blood.” His students said, “Only that much?” He answered, “Halevai (may it be so).” (Berachos 28b). That was said about tannaim, whose level of piety we cannot even imagine.

So that’s all I can say. “May the fear of Heaven be upon [us] as the fear of flesh and blood.” Halevai.


Monday, October 16, 2006

An open letter to R' Harry Maryles

Look, Harry, don't take this the wrong way, but I'm surprised at you.

After an entire Tekufah of the Yamim Noraim, and Succos and Simchas Torah, where we have all tried to make strides in our commitment to come closer to the Ribbono Shel Olam and in our attempts to bring about Kiruv Levavos between all our brethren, "Hofa V'Heenasei Aleinu L'einei Kol Chai", couldn't you kick off the blog posts with something other than the conformity of the Levush of the Charedim and the sucked-dry Daas Torah debate?

You can't really think that you are going to change the mindset of those who want to follow their Gedolim on issues beyond Shulchan Aruch proper (and let's be honest - people asked the Roshei Yeshiva about what career path to take, or whether to move to EY, and the like, in Lita as well - and if the Alter had insisted on a particular mode of dress, the Slabodkers, by and large, would have followed it just as assiduously as those who follow RYSE today).

Rav Kook writes - the Tzaddikim do not complain about the darkness, rather they add light. You have the audience's attention by much complaining about what you view as darkness - how about adding some light?

I can direct you to alot of information about, let's say, the Gerrer Chassidim- about the absolutely unparalleled Chessed orgs., the individual attention that each and every student gets (do you know that they have individualized tests for each Talmid in their system, based on the Rebbe's assessment of the Talmid's capabilities - who else can say that), their vocational training programs in Israel, their initiative in building the only emergency medical center facility in Ashdod - the 4th largest city in Israel - with no hospital and many terrorist attacks! (They are literally saving lives!), their willingness to jettison Iyun when they realized how sorely lacking the Beki'us level of their Talmidim was, and much more.

I could direct you to the multiple exhortations of people like Rav Zilberstein of Ramat Elchanan, RYSE's son in law, about the need to adhere strictly to issues of Dinei Mamonos, discussing both the gross violations of some, and the more eideldik standards that should be adhered to, some of which I am sure you never even thought may be violations of Shulchan Aruch.

I could really say much more - and I think this approach would enhance your credibility a thousandfold as one who critiques from 'within' as opposed to a vociferous opponent, which is the perception (not unwarranted) right now. One who is unable to say virtually anything positive about the Jews that HaKadosh Baruch Hu loves most (Hashem Ohaiv Tzaddikim, Rotzeh Hashem Es Yereiav), focusing on the negatives of those who would like to live their lives in a way which is in complete conformity with the Ratzon Hashem, even if they sometimes fail to measure up, while never failing to praise other people and entities who do not even begin to place this on the banner of their raison d'etre, cannot legitimately state that he is one of them.

B'Ahavah Geluya,



Friday, October 06, 2006

Ani VaHo Hoshi'a Na

The phrase אני והו הושיעה נא recited during Hoshanos is a difficult one. Rashi to Succah 45a explains that אני והו is part of the seventy-two letter name of Hashem derived from three consecutive Pessukim in Parshas Beshalach, each with seventy two letters. If we take the first letter of the first Passuk, the last of the middle, and the first of the last Passuk, we will get "Vaho" (in red), and if we continue on from there (second letter in first Passuk, 71 in middle, and second in last, and so on, when we get to the thirty seventh series we will have "Ani" (in blue)

ויסע מלאך האלהים ההלך לפני מחנה ישראל וילך מאחריהם ויסע עמוד הענן מפניהם ויעמד מאחריהם
ויבא בין מחנה מצרים ובין מחנה ישראל ויהי הענן והחשך ויאר את הלילה ולא קרב זה אל זה כל הלילה
ויט משה את ידו על הים ויולך יהוה את הים ברוח קדים עזה כל הלילה וישם את הים לחרבה ויבקעו המים

The question arises, since the order that the names appear in is first "Vaho" and then "Ani", why do we reverse the order?

The Vilna Gaon (brought in the Pesach HaDevir commentary to the Baal Ha'Ittur) explains this in a breathtakingly brilliant fashion:

There is one more occurence of the word "Vaho" in these Pessukim! At the 49th position (49th letters of first and last Passuk, 49 from the end of the middle), there is another Vaho (in red)

ויסע מלאך האלהים ההלך לפני מחנה ישראל וילך מאחריהם ויסע עמוד הענן מפניהם ויעמד מאחריהם
ויבא בין מחנה מצרים ובין מחנה ישראל ויהי הענן והחשך ויאר את הלילה ולא קרב זה אל זה כל הלילה
ויט משה את ידו על הים ויולך יהוה את הים ברוח קדים עזה כל הלילה וישם את הים לחרבה ויבקעו המים

So now, you will ask, why did we select the second Vaho over the first?

Becasue, says the Gaon, the ancient Piyyut that we say every Shabbos - El Adon Al Kol HaMaasim, is structured in the following manner:

Two clauses of 5 words each (10 words) : El Adon Al Kol HaMaasim,
Baruch UMevorach B'Fi Kol Neshama

18 clauses of 4 words each (72 words)

2 clauses of 6 words (12 words).

The first and last sections total 22 words, and Kabbalisitically each word corresponds to the 22 letters of the Alef Beis.

In the middle section each word corresponds to a segment of the seventy-two letter name of Hashem.

(You can find this parallel printed in some Siddurim, atop each word of the El Adon. See, e.g., Munkatcher Siddur, and others).

Word 37, corresponding to Ani, is להיות מושלים בקרב תבל

Word 49, corresponding to the second Vaho, is שמחים בצאתם

The words which we recite during Hoshanos parallel the segments of El Adon which are the essence of Succos - Lihyos Semeichim!

This also explains why an Aveil should not go around for Hoshanos.



Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Seridei Aish on Women's Hair Covering

Shu"t Seridei Aish Even HaEzer 78:21

"I have not come to clarify here whether this Halachah of women covering their hair is an explicit Din Torah or a Minhag Torah. Practically speaking, I am of the opinion that also from the perspective of Jewish morality it is proper that a woman cover her hair - it is thus that she shows that she is not excited about finding favor in the eyes of strange men, and she is opposed to having other men walk after her. Kol Kevuda Bas Melech Penima - in her home and in her family circle; and it is the way of kosher Jewish daughters that they are nauseated by strange men placing a covetous eye upon them.

The head covering of the married woman is bound together with the demands of Yahadus for Tznius, simplicity, and moral purity, which are directed at all Jews, men and women alike."


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Diras Ara'i

Many explanations are offered as to the hashkafic significance of living in a temporary abode during the seven days of Succos. Chief among them is the concept of recognition of the transience of this world and our existence therein. We also take Four Species which do not last very long at all, easily wilting and withering away.
A question arises - why is there such an emphasis on the beauty of these transient artifacts? Why do we have Noi Succah, Succah decorations, but no Noi Matzah? Why are we meticulous in the Hadar and Hiddur of the Arba Minim, but not so much in the Hadar and Hiddur of the Shofar (except under the general rubric of Zeh Eli V'Anvehu)?
Perhaps one explanation is the following.
There is a Machshava that the cycle of the Yamim Tovim represent a process of courtship (Pesach - a period of courship between Klal Yisrael and the Ribboni Shel Olam, based on the Kallah's Yichus of the Avos), betrothal (Shavuos - Al Tikrei Morasha Ela Meorasa - the Torah is our Shtar Kiddushin) and marriage (Succos represents the Chuppah and the seven days of the Sheva Berachos).
We just spent much of the Yomim Noraim extolling the virtues of the Chassan, and how we fail miserably in any attempt to compare to Him. In U'Nesaneh Tokef, we say that we are like a floating dust particle, a fleeting dream, and Hashem is eternal. aEspecially on Yom Kippur, we say: Anu K'shei Oref V'Atta Erech Apayim, Anu Yameinu K'TZeil Oveir V'Ata Hu U'Shnosecha Lo Yitamu - We are obstinate and Hashem is patient; our days are like a passing shadow, and G-d is of unending years.
Let us imagine the scene - a speaker gets up at a Sheva Berachos sings the endless praises of the Chassan, about his incredible Middos, his kindness, his patience, his diligence, and so on. After the hour-long "hesped", he gets to the Kallah. He says, "She is truly unworthy of him. The Chassan could have done better. " This is not only a horrific insult to the Kallah, but a slap in the face to the Chassan - his judgement is so deficient that he picked an inferior mate!?
As we enter under the Chuppah with the Ribbono Shel Olam,, we cannot enter with impression that the Chassan has made a mistake! We must state, (albeit, in Kallah fashion, with some coyness), that this Kallah is beautiful! We find favor in the eyes of the Chassan! We are pleasing and pleasant and attractive. And so, while we do not have the audacity to state it openly, we say - the transient has beauty too. We beautify the Diras Ara'i, and we pay close attention to the beauty and attractiveness of the Arba Minim. The Chassan did not choose the wrong mate!
We are able to connect to the beauty of a Lulav or of an Aravah in a manner that is inexplicable. Take a Lulav to a fellow Jew, and he will admire its beauty. Show a Lulav to a non-Jew, L'Havdil, tell him excitedly how beautiful it is, and you will probably get a blank stare in return. This is a connection that we alone have with the Divine and His Commandments, and we relish the opportunity to find favor in His eyes by alluding to the beautiful heart, spine, lips, and eyes, represented by the Arba Minim, of His mate. We rejoice in placing pictures of the great gedolim of yesteryear and of the present, of inviting in theUshpizin - those members of the beautiful Nation who have given the Ribbono Shel Olam cause for joy.
Ashrei Ha'Am Shekacha Lo, Ashrei Ha'Am SheHashem Elokav!

G'mar Tov.